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Hidden Dragon

I shook my head in disbelief when the rumors started surfacing in February of dual-band tri-mode (a/b/g) WLAN products. But a month later, I was looking at NETGEAR's WAG511 CardBus card. Based on Atheros' AR5001X+ chipset, it includes the same second-generation 802.11a capability found in the dual-band dual-mode (a/b) Atheros design, but with a new baseband/MAC chip that adds capability needed for 802.11g operation.

Once again, the client cards beat their matching APs to market. So when I went to test the WAG511, I had to use a combination of products to test all three of its modes. Since NETGEAR had been after me to check out their WAB102 Dual-Band Access Point, which they swore had much better 802.11a performance, I decided to use this opportunity to check out that claim, too.

NETGEAR WAB102 and WAG511 802.11a throughput

Figure 5: NETGEAR WAB102 and WAG511 802.11a throughput
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

Figure 5, which is taken from the WAG511 review, shows the 11a performance obtained from using both a second generation AP and client. If you compare it to the earlier plots, you'll see that the average throughput in Conditions 3 and 4 is generally higher, but also more consistent. What you can't tell from Figure 5, is the improved robustness of the connection. Let me give you a little help with another plot.

NETGEAR WAB102 and WAG511 802.11a "Turbo" throughput

Figure 6: NETGEAR WAB102 and WAG511 802.11a "Turbo" throughput
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

Figure 6 shows the results of a test that I normally don't bother running on 802.11a products, i.e. a four Condition throughput test with "Turbo mode" enabled. With first-generation 11a products, I've found that running "Turbo" with anything less than the strongest signal produces lower throughput and unreliable connections. But with the new generation, the connection is both reliable and faster than obtained with "Turbo" off - which I imagine is what Atheros had in mind in the first place!

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